The film “Tumbledown,” which premiered on Friday at the Maine International Film Festival, is billed in the festival’s program as “one of the most striking Maine-set films since Oscar nominee ‘In the Bedroom.’ Stunningly set in the mountains of western Maine around Farmington and Weld.”

Problem is, most of it was filmed in Massachusetts.

As director Sean Mewshaw told the audience after Friday’s showing, any scene in which you see a face you recognize wasn’t shot in Maine.

Mewshaw and screenplay writer Desi Van Til did shoot some scenics of Franklin County on their own and it was, as billed, stunning.

This isn’t a film review. See “Tumbledown” and decide for yourself if Massachusetts and Hollywood (where all Mainers are a little daft, but oh-so-cute and there’s no meth lab in the woods down the road) do Franklin County justice. And by Hollywood, by the way, I don’t mean the actual place in California, but more the mind-set behind the money and other factors that make movies what they are and that screenwriters don’t always have control over.

But you know who did do Franklin County justice?


Van Til, who loved her hometown of Farmington enough to set her film there, then work for eight years to get it made.

Also, Mewshaw, Van Til’s husband, who not only directed the film, but is now a Mainer himself — brought here, we assume, out of love. Just like in the movies.

But the biggest tribute of all to Franklin County was the audience itself Friday night.

There’s no doubt where many of the audience members came from, simply by their reaction to the jokes and familiar sites in the movie.

And when Van Til, before the movie began, talked about how the Farmington area raised her and asked anyone in the audience to raise their hand if they had a connection to her, it seemed like half the hands in the room went up.

Diane Kruchkow, who lives in New Sharon at the toe of Franklin County, told the Morning Sentinel, while waiting for the film to begin, that everyone in the area “was really excited.”


Susan and Fritz Onion, who grew up in Farmington and live in Wayne, said that they’d spent a lot of time hiking the actual Tumbledown mountain in a township outside of Weld, so were anxious to see it in the movie.

While they saw it from afar, the one clambered around on by actors Richard Mansur and Jason Sudeikis (in his too-tight New York hipster clothes because no one from the big city knows how to dress to clamber around on a mountain, according to Hollywood) definitely wasn’t our Tumbledown.

While the exterior of Farmington bookstore Delaney, Doak and Garrett and the Homestead were used in the film, the interiors were definitely as Hollywood as some of the Maine-ahs in the film.

Ditto for the maple syrup party, which was a little fancier than what you’d expect to see in Maine, and not an ounce of Allen’s Coffee Brandy in sight.

Granted, it wasn’t a movie about domestic violence, poverty and meth labs, so there was probably no point in showing any of that.

And more importantly, none of the fancy Hollywood-ization, or the Massachusetts locale, seemed to matter to the friends, family and acquaintances of Van Til.


After all, they’re the real Franklin County; and if the one onscreen is slightly askew, what does it matter?

A Franklin County girl worked for eight years to make a movie. It has stars in it whom we all actually recognize. And it sold out the Waterville Opera House on opening night of the Maine International Film Festival — the first time that’s ever happened.

Even Hollywood couldn’t make that fancier.

Maureen Milliken is the news editor of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. Email her at Twitter: @mmilliken47. Kennebec Tales is published the first and third Thursday of the month.

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